There are so many remarkable things about Ethiopia – its landscape, its culture, its history – that I hardly know where to begin in describing it.
The local people (pictured above) are herders in the Ethiopian Highland’s Simien Mountains. They are among the people you meet here that are remarkably friendly, studious and motivated. I met a very young lad in Axum, Mario, that was hanging around our hotel. I knew his family was a friend of our tour guide. I inquired as to whether he had been to school that day and what he had studied. “Geography, mam”, he answered politely. I gave him a quiz on the capitals of Europe and he knew them all except Dublin! I gave him a bottle of water as a ‘gold star’ and then he politely asked if I would like to see his family’s souvenir shop.
But in more remote communities, the children only see you as a source of cash. “Money, money, money!” they cry. Even the youngest ones. The parents do not protest possibly because of desperation. Rural areas are the last to get help in a country with 110 million people.
But often the giving and open nature of people is astonishing. When my watch didn’t make it through one of the airport security airports, our tour guide offered to give me his. Of course, I didn’t accept but the sheer generosity of the gesture was not lost on me.
The coffee ceremony is a perfect example of sharing and generosity. It isn’t just about having a cup of coffee, but the lighting of incense, making popcorn, the conversation and savouring the taste of the freshly ground and roasted coffee.